The Dominion Post  

Shots not falling for WVU men’s basketball team

Created on:   Sun, Jan 28, 2018   6:49 PM

Last modified:   Sun, Jan 28, 2018   6:49 PM

The Dominion Post

MORGANTOWN — Before his WVU men’s basketball team even faced Kentucky during an 83-76 loss on Jan. 27, Bob Huggins was discussing the mounting difficulties the Mountaineers faced.

It had nothing to do with the talented Wildcats and their roster of future NBA draft picks.

Instead, Huggins went through a case of then and now, with the “now” being a frustrating time for the Mountaineers (16-5, 5-3 Big 12), who have lost four of five games, including losing a 17-point lead in the second half against Kentucky.

The “then” was almost an all-time great. It was less than three weeks ago the Mountaineers were ranked No. 2 in the country for the first time since Jerry West’s senior season of 1959.

Anytime a WVU accomplishment is compared with West, that’s a big deal.

And what made it happen, Huggins said, was the Mountaineers’ ability to make shots.

Lamont West was an outside threat, one who was shooting 48 percent from the field as late as New Year’s Day.

Teddy Allen was a gritty freshman, who was making a name for himself by getting the tough baskets inside.

Daxter Miles Jr. was having his best season while providing some senior leadership.

Enough guys were making enough plays that even Virginia’s vaunted defense, which is still the No. 1-ranked defense in the country, gave up 42 percent shooting and 10 3-pointers in its 68-61 loss against WVU.

“When you think about when we played really well, Lamont made some open shots. Dax made open shots,” Huggins said. “Wes [Harris] would make some.”

The offense covered up WVU’s lack of intangibles that had made the Mountaineers such a threat in recent seasons.

Mainly, it covered up the fact the full-court pressure wasn’t as effective as before, meaning WVU was scoring less off turnovers and transition.

“We’re not getting what we need there,” WVU point guard Jevon Carter said.

Since that No. 2 ranking, junior forward Esa Ahmad became eligible, but he struggled against Kentucky, going 0 for 7 from the field.

Sagaba Konate continues to develop into an inside threat and Carter, Huggins said, has done his best to shoulder much of the load.

“It can’t all be J.C.,” Huggins said. “I think everybody feels like he has to put this team on his back and that’s not what he is. He’s the consummate team guy. He’s been out of character, because he’s trying to do things he hasn’t done. Not that he can’t do it, but he hasn’t done it before.”

For every WVU positive, it would seem there are a bunch of negatives.

James “Beetle” Bolden continues to make shots, but Miles has gone cold and Allen continues to struggle after his attitude got him in Huggins’ doghouse and missed two games. He’s 1 for 13 shooting in his last four games.

West, after shooting nearly 50 percent during the first semester, is shooting 28.6 percent (8 for 28) during his last five games.

Huggins hinted on his postgame radio interview that lineup changes are in order and that he may play Bolden and guard Chase Harler more.

He’s also looking at playing some less, as well as limiting the types of shots some of his players attempt.

“Here’s the honest to God’s truth, we have a guy who is two for his last 22. It just didn’t happen today,” Huggins said. “He’s two for his last 22, but for some reason only known to him, he’s still shooting threes. He didn’t make many lay-ups, either, which I guess was why he was shooting threes.

“It’s about a team and trying to win. [Kentucky] is better than what we are, so we have to do things right.”

The full-court pressure may never be what Huggins wants this season and the coach is also unhappy with how his guards defend on the perimeter and how is forwards were out-muscled down low against Kentucky.

At this point, there just aren’t enough play-makers for the Mountaineers to make up for missed shots.

“You can do all that other stuff you want to do, but if the ball doesn’t go in the basket it’s pretty much for naught,” Huggins said.